Theodore Klein Plant Awards

Kentucky Native Plants

Below you’ll find the Kentucky Native Plants that have received the honor of “Theodore Klein Plant Award” in alphabetical order based on its Latin name.

Acer saccharum
Sugar Maple
Bonfire™, Commemoration®, Fall Fiesta™ 'Bailsta', Green Mountain®, Legacy®

An excellent collection of superior performing sugar maple selections, these will all create upright rounded shade trees with uniform outline, attractive, scaly gray bark and brilliant red/orange fall foliage color. Best on a good quality soil with adequate moisture.

Amelanchier x

Serviceberry is an excellent small flowering tree known for its informal, upright form covered with white flowers in spring, blueberry-live summer fruit (that are loved by many bird species) and red/orange fall foliage color. It works well in both full sun and light shade. Easy to grow and a multi-season plant. ‘Cumulus’ is known for excellent foliage quality and fall color

Asarum canadense
Wild Ginger

The fuzzy grey-green, heart shaped leaves of wild ginger form a stunning mat of foliage up to about 8” tall. It is an excellent groundcover choice for any shady garden where it aggressively crowds out weeds. Small brown flowers form under the leaves in spring.

Asimina triloba
Paw Paw

A native woodland tree throughout Kentucky, Paw Paw bears large, tropical-looking leaves, small unique dark burgundy flowers and distinct banana-like fruit. Paw Paw requires a moist rich soil and is happiest in full sun to partial shade.

Aster oblongifolius
'Raydon's Favorite'

A fabulous sun perennial that forms a 2′-3′ tall and wide, dense mass of fine, highly aromatic foliage and clouds of levender blue flowers in fall. Highly resistant to the foliage mildew problems that plagues so many asters. Incredibly drought tolerant, easy to grow and a killer pollinator plant for late in the season.

Baptista australis
Blue False Indigo

Long lived herbaceous perennial grown for its lavender-blue spring flower spikes.The plant combines excellent pest resistance with drought and heat tolerance that make it an excellent choice for just about any sunny garden. Does not transplant well after a few years in the ground so best to plant it and leave it be.

Bignonia capreolata
Atrosanguinea', 'Tangerine Beauty', 'Jekyll'

Wonderful climbing vine that produces clouds of trumpet flowers in shades ranging from golden yellow to orange and deep red. While this plant is found in the wild as an understory plant, it performs best in full sun where its early summer flowers are frequented by hummingbirds.

Calycanthus floridus
Carolina Allspice

An outstanding, eastern North American native shrub for bright sun to filtered light that is best known for its early summer blooms of deep maroon/mahogany. Medium green summer foliage turns bright golden in fall. Favored cultivars include Allen Bush selection ‘Michael Lindsey’(with deep green, glossy summer foliage and heavy flower production, and ‘Athens’, the Michael Dirr selection with chartreuse flowers. 

Fragrance is variable but the best forms emit a delicate scent variously described as strawberry to lime. Crushed stems have a distinct lime fragrance as well. There is a botanical variety – C. floridus var atropurpureus – that has been around the trade for years. Richard Hartline of Pleasant Run Nursery selected a dark foliaged seedling of this variety and patented it under the name ‘Burgundy Spice’. It has stunning, deep burgundy foliage and typical color flowers. It has not caught on in the trade presumably due to propagation difficulties.

Carpinus caroliana
American Hornbeam
Native Flame® ('JFS-KW6'), Ball O’Fire™ (‘JN Globe’), FireSpire™ (JN Upright), and ‘JN Strain’

This outstanding small to medium tree makes a long lived, pest resistant specimen that has unique, muscular branching, smooth, dark gray bark and excellent deep green summer foliage. The listed cultivars have been selected for excellent and consistent red fall foliage color.

Cephalanthus occidentalis
Button Bush
Magical® Moonlight (Plant Nouveau)

One of the most adaptable of our native shrubs, button bush produces spherical, fragrant white blooms about 1.5″ in diameter. Glossy summer foliage turns a clear golden yellow in fall. Excellent pollinator plant and adaptable from dry soils to sites with standing water.

Cephalanthus occidentalis
Magical® Moonlight (‘Kolmoon’)

This excellent Kentucky native is one of our favorite pollinator shrubs, offering up honey-scented, golf ball sized flowers in late spring and glossy green summer foliage. This selection is more compact than the straight species, topping out at about 5’ tall and wide. It will tolerate everything from sopping wet soil to drought conditions.

Cercis canadensis
Common Red Bud
'Appalachian Red'

Redbud is a common small garden tree best known for its crops of lavender/pink flowers in spring. This selection is different in that it produces flowers of a shocking fuchsia color. Best on a sunny site in any reasonable soil.

Cladrastis kentukea
American Yellowwood

This medium-sized tree is prized for late spring crops of white, sweetly fragrant and slightly pendulous flower clusters. Bright green summer foliage turns a glowing yellow in fall. The bark is a smooth gray and adds interest all year long. Likes a moist and rich soil.

Clethra alnifolia

This delightful North American native shrub is covered in late spring/early summer with sweetly fragrant, white flower spikes that are covered with a long list of pollinators. Bright golden fall foliage adds a nice touch in autumn. Likes a soil with reasonable moisture and performs best in full sun to light shade. The straight species grows to about 6′ tall x 6′ wide but ‘Hummingbird’ is a more compact selection that matures at around 3’x3′.

‘Ruby Spice’ is one of the best pink flowered selections of the species.

Coreopsis tripteris
Tall Tickseed
‘Gold Standard’

From our friends at the Mt Cuba Center comes this stunning native perennial for the summer garden. A big grower to about 7’ tall, it forms large masses of upright stems topped with cheerful golden blooms from early summer through frost. Best in full sun and sparse soil.

Cornus florida
Flowering Dogwood
‘Appalachian Spring’

This Tennessee introduction is the most disease-resistant flowering dogwood on the market today. Classic white spring blooms, bright red fall fruit and red/ orange fall foliage combine to make the perfect package. Plant in rich, moist soil in partial shade.

Diospyros virginiana
Common Persimmon

An adaptable and long lived tree best known for its delicious fall-ripening fruit. Growing to 40’-50’ tall, this Kentucky native tree grows into an upright oval shape and is easily identified by its deeply furrowed, gray bark. Male and female flowers are born on separate trees so both are required for fruit production.

There are many cultivars selected for early fruit ripening, overall fruit quality, pendulous growth (Magic Fountain) and even seedless fruit.

Dryopteris x australis
Dixie Wood Fern

This 3’-4′-tall, upright arching fern is one of the best choices for specimen or mass planting. It works well in any shaded site with a good garden soil. Vigorous grower that is not browsed by deer and has few other insect or pest problems. An easy to grow fern.

This is a naturally occurring hybrid of Dryopteris celsa and D. ludoviciana

Eupatorium maculatum
Joe Pye Weed

Large, sun perennial for the sunny garden on either wet or dry soils. Strong burgundy-colored stems yield flat topped domes of creamy white to pink blooms in mid summer with seed heads remaining effective through fall. Outstanding pollinator plant. ‘Gateway’ is a more compact grower (5′) with darker colored stems and uniform growth.

Fagus grandifolia
American Beech

A noble tree if there ever was one! Growing to 60’ tall and wide with strong branching and beautifully smooth gray bark, it loves deep, rich and moist soil and is typically a long lived specimen in the landscape. Avoid extreme drought and soil compaction in the root zone.

Gymnocladus dioicus
Kentucky Coffee Tree

Attractive and durable shade tree with unique, scaly gray bark, blue/green summer foliage and clear yellow fall color. Open branching makes trees look a bit sparse in youth but result in strong branching and beautiful shape with age. Female plants produce large, leathery seed pods. Most named cultivars are males.

Helianthus angustifolius
Swamp Sunflower
‘First Light’

Compact selection of an already excellent North American herbaceous perennial will top out at about 4’ tall. In September and October, it is smothered in 2-inch diameter, screaming yellow daisy flowers. Loves full sun and can handle damp soils but will adapt to any reasonable garden soil. Deer resistant.

Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra
False Sunflower
'Summer Sun' and 'Summer Nights'

These two outstanding summer blooming perennials are excellent additions to any sunny garden. Both provide masses of golden yellow blooms from mid Summer into Fall with Summer Sun offering double yellow blooms while Summer Nights produces single golden flowers with deeper centers. Excellent pollinator plants, easy to grow and deer proof.

Heuchera villosa var. macrorhiza
Coral Bells
‘Autumn Bride’

Outstanding, green leafed coral bells selection with a low mound of fuzzy green foliage topped in fall with 2′-tall wiry stems with delicate white flowers. Incredibly drought tolerant, works well in shade or part sun and very easy to grow.

Hydrangea arborescens
Smooth Hydrangea
'NCHA2' Invincibelle® Spirit II

A wonderful, deep pink flowered form of our Kentucky native hydrangea. Flowers on new growth so it blooms even after winter pruning. Excellent 3’ tall option for full sun or light shade and most soils.

Ilex opaca
American Holly
'Judy Evans'

American holly forms an attractive, upright, conical evergreen in the landscape, typically with spined, leathery leaves and bright red fruit on female specimens. The Theodore Klein selection ‘Judy Evans’ stands out as superior by virtue of its dense, regular outline, dark green foliage, heavy crops of red fruit and vigorous growth. It is considered one of the best of the female cultivars. A long lived and dependable garden plant.

Male required for fruit set on female plants.

Ilex verticillata
Winterberry Holly
'Red Sprite'

The winterberry hollies are stars of the fall and winter landscape with female selections producing massive crops of fire engine red fruits that hang on for a long time. Ranging in size from 3′ to more than 10′ (depending on cultivar) this deciduous shrub species will handle any soil from consistently wet to slightly dry. It is easy to grow, has few pests and offers birds a loved food source in winter. ‘Red Sprite’ is one of the smaller female selections, maturing at about 4′ tall and wide with large fruits. Requires a male pollinator.

Itea virginica
Virginia Sweetspire
'Henry's Garnet'

A vigorous, spreading shrub with upright arching stems bearing clear white flowers in late spring. In fall, the foliage develops a brilliant, scarlet color that lasts through much of the fall. A tough, durable and drought tolerant species although best flowering and fall color on a soil with reasonable moisture. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ is a selection for superior, bright red fall foliage color.

‘Little Henry’ is similar but about 2/3 size of ‘Henry’s Garnet’

Lindera benzoin
Spice Bush

This large woodland shrub is grown for its subtle spring flowers of yellow/green and summer/fall red fruit. It is the preferred host to the spicebush swallowtail butterfly. An excellent choice for sun or dappled shade and is tolerant of a wide range of soils.

Lonicera sempervirens
Trumpet Honeysuckle
‘Blanche Sandman’

This Kentucky native vine is excellent for trellises and for scrambling over stone walls where it produces late spring/early summer trumpets of red, orange and yellow and sporadically through the summer. An excellent hummingbird plant. Best for full sun sites in any average soil.

Magnolia virginiana var. australis
Sweetbay Magnolia
'Henry Hicks', 'Northern Bell', 'Aiken County', 'Green Bay' syn. 'Green Shadow'

This upright oval magnolia is best known for its crops of creamy white, lemon-scented flowers cast against dark green foliage. Easy to grow in any reasonable soil, it is an excellent selection for lengthening the spring bloom season. The variety australis is the evergreen form of the species.

Excellent cultivars include: Henry Hicks, Northern Belle, Aiken County, Green Bay (Green Shadow)

Nyssa sylvatica

An excellent upright growing shade tree with glossy green summer foliage, small blue fruits (on female plants) and gleaming fall foliage in shades of red, orange, yellow and burgundy. Tolerant of heavy soils. Numerous cultivars have been introduced for more consistent fall color and vigor. Excellent Kentucky native tree.

Numerous cultivars have been introduced for leaf spot resistance, consistent fall color and growth rate: Red Rage – large leaves with bright red color some years. Good spot resistance. Wildfire – red new leaves and moderate fall color display with good spot resistance. Green Gable – glossy dark green summer leaves and good vigor.

Panicum virgatum
‘Cloud Nine’

This North American native grass will grow to 6’ tall or more, producing fine clouds of summer/fall blooms/seed heads that give the entire plant an airy feel. Best when planted in masses in full sun. Excellent for back of the border and naturalized masses.

Phlox divaricata
Woodland Phlox
‘Blue Moon’, ‘May Breeze’

This well-behaved, spreading groundcover forms loose mats of fine-textured foliage that is covered with lightly fragrant, blue/lavender to rose/pink flowers in spring. Fairly drought tolerant once established, the only care needed is an occasional cut back to refresh foliage in mid-summer. Deer resistant and easy to grow. ‘May Breeze’ is an excellent selection with white flowers that can age to a pale purple. ‘Blue Moon’ is generally considered one of the best blue selections.

Physocarpus opulifolius
Common Ninebark
'Seward' , Summer Wine™

This almost indestructible shrub is a standout for the summer garden. Mahogany foliage is deeper and holds its color better than other varieties. Pink/white late spring flowers offer excellent contrast and are attractive to a wide range of pollinators.

Polysticum acrosticoides
Christmas Fern

Easy to grow evergreen fern for the shade garden. Growing 12″-24″ tall and wide, its slightly leathery foliage starts out spring fairly upright and gradually relaxes to the ground through the winter. Deer browse resistant.

Pycnanthemum muticum
Short-Toothed Mountain Mint

Stunning 2’-tall perennial with silver/grey leaves and pale pink flowers that is an absolute pollinator magnet. Best in sun to light shade. Excellent for rain gardens, mixed borders or naturalizing at the woods edge.

Quercus alba
White Oak

This long-lived and durable shade tree is among the most attractive of the oaks. Broad-spreading limbs and leathery dark green leaves offer excellent shade and beautiful texture. Adaptable to a wide range of soils.

Quercus bicolor
Swamp White Oak

Swamp White Oak is one of our most outstanding native oaks. Growing to 50-60’ tall with an upright oval outline, it makes an excellent shade tree specimen and is also useful in street tree and parking lot plantings. This long-lived species is tremendously adaptable and once established, it is tolerant of both wet and dry soils. Summer foliage is a dark glossy green with a bit of yellow in the Autumn.

Quercus coccinea
Scarlet Oak

A large, rounded shade tree with fine textured green summer foliage that turns glowing red in fall. Tolerant of slightly dry to slightly wet soils and is a long lived and generally trouble free species.

Schizachyrium scoparium
Little Blue Stem
'Standing Ovation'

This outstanding native grass forms 3’-4’ tall masses of fine textured, strongly erect foliage and summer clouds of seedheads that last well into winter. While many Blue Stem forms have a hard time standing up in the garden, ‘Standing Ovation’ stands tall all through the season. Incredibly drought tolerant and pest resistant. Best in masses where its blue/green summer foliage and purple/blue fall display look best.

Solidago shortii
‘Solar Cascade’

A rather low-growing and sprawling goldenrod prized for its heavy flower production and vigorous growth. Selected by Steve Foltz of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, it has become popular for naturalizing plantings, to grow over retaining walls and to cover slopes. Outstanding pollinator plant.

Spigelia marilandica
Indian Pink

This low, mounded perennial is best known for its brilliant red flowers in spring. Typically found as a woodland wildflower, this one performs even better in full sun as long as it has adequate moisture. Excellent hummingbird plant and an easy care garden plant.

Taxodium distichum
Bald Cypress
'Mickelson' Shawnee Brave™

This strongly upright species is fast growing, pest resistant and provides a very fine texture in the landscape. Bald cypress is tolerant of a wide range of soils (even standing water!) and exposures and is unusual in that it is one of the few conifers that looses its needles in the winter. Shawnee Brave was selected for improved cold hardiness, vigor and uniform growth.

Tiarella cordifolia
Foam Flower
‘Running Tapestry’

This fabulous North American native herbaceous groundcover is perfect for the shade garden. Growing to about 10” tall, its bright green leaves are flecked with deep red through the summer and the color intensifies after fall frost. Spikes of clear white flowers cover plants in spring. Avoid dry soils.

Viburnum nudum

A large, deciduous shrub grown for late spring, creamy white flowers, showy masses of fall fruit and glowing, maroon fall foliage color. It is adaptable to a wide range of conditions from full sun to light shade, is an excellent pollinator plant when in bloom and the fruit crops are favored by many bird species. Tolerant of very wet soils. The selection ‘Winterthur’ has improved fall color and fruit set compared to the straight species.

Explore the other categories of plants that have been named recipients of the Theodore Klein Plant Awards:

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